Can eviction be treated as a last resort in Manitoba?
Eviction has a devastating impact on renter households and should only ever be used as a last resort. Proportionality in eviction is a legal framework, required under international law, for ensuring that eviction will only be carried out when it is absolutely necessary and there is no reasonable alternative. Unfortunately, Canada has not fully implemented a proportionality framework, and renter households continue to be evicted unnecessarily in every province and territory.
Some provinces and territories have partially implemented a proportionality framework, by giving courts and tribunals the authority to choose alternatives to eviction. In Manitoba, when a landlord has a complaint about a problem in a tenancy, such as unpaid rent or allegations about a tenant’s behaviour, they can apply to a tribunal called the Residential Tenancies Branch (RTB). A Residential Tenancies Officer hears from the landlord and the tenant and makes a decision about how to resolve the complaint. If the complaint is upheld, the law gives the Officer broad powers to make various orders to resolve the issue.
The role of conditional orders as an alternative to eviction
One of the resolutions available to the RTB is an order to evict a tenant, but other resolutions are also available. In particular, the RTB can make a “conditional order” requiring the tenant to resolve an issue. In this case, the tenant will only be evicted if they do not do what they were ordered to do. For example, a tenant who owes rent can be ordered to pay it back on a repayment plan. A tenant who has been the subject of noise complaints can be ordered to make less noise. These are conditional orders to resolve an issue.
Conditional orders are an essential part of the proportionality framework because they prevent unnecessary evictions where problems can be solved by other means. It is a strength of Manitoba law that RTB Officers are allowed to make these orders as an alternative to eviction.
Is eviction being treated as a last resort in Manitoba?
The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) analyzed the RTB’s decisions and tabulated conditional orders by year. Up until 2007, the Manitoba RTB routinely considered conditional orders as alternatives to eviction. For example, if a renter owed rent, the RTB would consider whether to give them an opportunity to avoid eviction through a repayment plan, by considering factors including:
- The reasons the renter had fallen behind, such as illness, reduction in work hours, or administrative errors.
- Whether the renter’s repayment plan was realistic based on their income.
- Whether the renter had made some payments when they were able to do so.
- The amount of rent they owed.
- Whether the landlord’s conduct had contributed to the problem.
- The hardship that eviction would cause the renter and their family.
Although the RTB did not allow conditional orders in every case, it routinely considered doing so and gave written reasons for its decision. It often found conditional orders to be fair resolutions.
In some cases, landlords agreed to conditional orders. However, when landlords did not agree, the RTB was still willing to make conditional orders when, after considering the landlord’s and tenant’s arguments, it concluded that it would be fair to do so. These are sometimes called “contested conditional orders.”
However, the RTB’s use of conditional orders dropped dramatically between 2007 to 2010. From 2010 to the present, the RTB has made almost no conditional orders. This has severe implications for housing security and human rights. It means that renters are being evicted unnecessarily, when their housing could have been saved through conditional orders.
Furthermore, the RTB no longer appears to even consider making conditional orders. The written reasons given for most of its decisions no longer consider whether a conditional order would be appropriate, or even acknowledge the possibility of one. In other words, eviction in Manitoba is not being treated as a last resort.
The solution – how to treat eviction as a last resort in Manitoba
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that eviction is a last resort:
- The RTB can train its Officers to consider conditional orders as an alternative to eviction in every case, and to only order eviction as a last resort if they conclude that a conditional order would not be reasonable.
- The Manitoba government can amend Manitoba’s Residential Tenancies Act to explicitly direct Officers to treat eviction as a last resort in every case.
- The federal government can work with the provinces to insist that Canada meet its commitments to treat housing as a human right under international law.
- All levels of government can implement programs and funding to support renters in paying rent and resolving problems to stabilize tenancies.
- Landlords can explore solutions with renters and agree to reasonable solutions.
- Renters can work to resolve tenancy issues and share with their landlord and the RTB Officer assigned to their case what they are doing to make their tenancies work.
Prioritizing alternatives to eviction in Manitoba
29 Sep 2023 The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) is proud to be partnering with the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) and other non-profit organizations in Manitoba on a project that aims to prevent unnecessary evictions of vulnerable households in the province.